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We've been reporting for nearly a year that Shannon Gholston, an Ecorse man paralyzed from the neck down since being shot in 2000, had changed his story regarding the identity of the gunman who shot him. But last week was the first time his recantation came under oath and in a courtroom.
Gholston originally fingered DeShawn Reed as the man who fired at him from a car window while his uncle, Marvin Reed, drove. As a result of that testimony, the two men were sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Reeds are seeking a new trial, and Gholston's recantation is one of the keys.
"I believed I saw him, but I've had a long time to think about it," Gholston said, testifying from his wheelchair during an evidentiary hearing at Wayne County Circuit Court. "I can't say for sure."
Attorneys were unsure if Gholston would appear. The hearing was delayed while the court waited for him and officials debated what to do if he ignored his subpoena. But a friend pushed Gholston's wheelchair into the courtroom and he testified calmly and matter-of-factly, sitting just a few feet from the Reeds.
Gholston's testimony was the only evidence that Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Hathaway used to convict the Reeds at their 2001 bench trial. (See "In the blink of an eye," June 4, 2008.) Alibi witnesses said the Reeds were at home during the shooting, and other witnesses said a different man did the shooting.
With Gholston's new testimony, the Reeds' attorneys and student lawyers from the new Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School couldn't be blamed for hoping last week's hearing might be simple: Place Gholston under oath and get his recantation on the record so that Judge Patricia Fresard, who is presiding over the hearing, could order a new trial based on this new evidence.
But Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Breen countered Gholston's claim with testimony from his two sisters, who said they thought Gholston made a deal with the Reeds.
If Gholston changed his story, friends or family members of the Reeds would stop harassing the Gholstons, they said. Never mind that Breen never asked Gholston about such an arrangement. Nor did Vanessa Isom Jackson or Sherrie Gholston Truitt, the sisters, produce police reports about any alleged incidents.
DeShawn Reed — who again denied the shooting — testified that he hadn't been directing harassment from behind bars. Tienail Reed, who the sisters identified as one of their harassers, also denied their claims.
Gholston's recantation in court was the third time he's changed his story since trial. In 2005, he told a private investigator working for the Reeds that he didn't see who shot him. When an investigator from the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office arrived unannounced months later at Gholston's parents' home, where he lives under their care, Gholston reversed course again said it was the Reeds who shot him.
"I told him I didn't want to be bothered with it," Gholston said in court about that conversation.
But there has been other new evidence since the Reeds' 2001 trial that their attorneys say would have led to the conviction of another man for Gholston's shooting, and should help get a new trial for the Reeds.
Whether Fresard will be convinced remains to be seen. She adjourned the hearing last week during DeShawn Reed's testimony, in part because, she said, she didn't expect the hearing to last so long. It will continue April 21, and more witnesses are expected to be called.
Fresard, incidentally, is married to Donn Fresard, the chief of staff for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. David Moran, one of the Reeds' attorneys, says the Reeds' team was aware of the connection. "We are confident she can set aside her personal relationship and do the right thing in a case such as this," he says. Judge Fresard did not return a telephone call about the issue.
The Reeds' attorneys think another question worth asking is if another man, Tyrone Allen, could have been convicted of shooting Gholston?
After all, Allen possessed the gun that Michigan State Police lab tests show fired the bullet that left Gholston paralyzed, according to police reports. Three witnesses at the Reeds' trial identified Allen as Gholston's shooter. And, according to a police report, Allen told his girlfriend he did it.
But Allen won't ever be tried for the shooting. He's dead, shot by Detroit police between the time Gholston was shot in March 2000 and the Reeds' trial in August 2001.
The bullet removed from Gholston wasn't matched to Allen's gun until after the Reeds were sentenced. The Reeds' attorneys now argue the ballistics evidence should have been presented more clearly in an earlier legal team's appeal of the Reeds' convictions and are arguing "ineffective assistance of counsel" as an additional reason for a new trial.
"There is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that Tyrone Allen, not DeShawn and Marvin Reed, fired the shot that paralyzed Shannon Gholston," Moran says.
News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com.